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Letters: Dementia Crisis, Dolly Parton


It's Tuesday, and time to read from your comments. Last Tuesday, during our discussion about parents with a physical or cognitive disability, we heard from Maribeth(ph) in Denver: My daughter and son-in-law are congenitally deaf, she wrote. Both are graduates of Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. and lived there when their first child was born, who was hearing and did not suffer from not hearing spoken word from her parents.

She started signing at age seven months, was signing and speaking with a vocabulary of 40 words when she was one year old. She could read by the time she was four and read "Harry Potter" to me, even though she didn't understand all of it. She's now 16 and an excellent student. When I asked her about reading early, she said it was because of closed captioning on TV.

And this from Anne in Chico, California: On either side of the issue, I hate to see broad-stroke decisions. At the school where I was the school office manager, we had a nine-year-old boy whose mother had a mental age of seven. She'd drop by the cafeteria and hang out, snacking off his tray and impulsively strolled into his classroom to engage in conversation. The angry, frustrated boy acted out, avoided going home, hung out a pool hall and often slept on the streets.

He was placed in permanent foster care with a loving family and thrived. His mother had supervised monthly visits with him, the only times he was rebellious. I do disapprove of automatic removals, but in some cases, it's absolutely necessary.

Then, last Wednesday, our discussion about caring for those suffering from dementia prompted a lot of email. Jim in San Francisco wrote: My folks acknowledged my mom's Alzheimer's about six years ago, but were never willing to discuss plans for dealing with it. When she gets past it, was how my dad responded to efforts to discuss their needs. Dad died bankrupt a couple of years ago, which left my siblings and me to deal with it.

We tried homecare as long as it worked, but we don't have the money to cover her needs. So we had to place her in a facility that could be covered by Social Security and Medi-Cal, but a hundred miles from both my brother and me. It's not ideal, and we weren't able to visit frequently. It's especially hard to deal with people in denial about their situation.

Carol in Fort Wayne wrote: A problem I'm dealing with is the fact that there are no laws that allow caregivers to make decisions for elderly family members who are no longer able to make good decisions about their health. I have had several doctors tell me that because my dad - who lives alone in his home - is cognizant and can make decisions, they have no choice but to respect his choices, even though they put him in danger.

There have been times when my dad has been released from the hospital to go home because that's where he wanted to go, when clearly he should not have gone home with no one there to care for him. Caregivers like me live in constant fear because they have no control over the safety and well-being of the people they care about.

And last week, we spoke with Dolly Parton about "Dream More," her new book, and asked you to tell us about how you've adjusted your dreams over the years. Kay in Indianapolis wrote: Since a small child, I wanted to be an actress and singer. I pursued a drama degree, but came to realize I wasn't much of an actress, plus the personalities that surrounded me were not good influences. So I changed majors and became a computer designer.

I continued to love singing, mostly in church, but was never noticed or encouraged, so assumed that I was to bloom elsewhere. Just this year, I answered an ad for a female singer and auditioned for no more than a back-up singer, but I became the lead singer. And now, at age 52, I am sublimely happiest when singing with my band, doing soft country, no less.

If you have a correction, comment or question for us, the best way to reach us is by email. The address: talk@npr.org. Please, let us know where you're writing from and give us some help on how to pronounce your name. If you're on Twitter, you can follow us there @totn. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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